What is a Hardship License?

If your license is suspended in Louisiana, you might still be able to drive for special reasons

There are several reasons why you may have your driver’s license suspended in the state of Louisiana. Among the most common is for a DWI (driving while intoxicated) violation. For a first offense, if you’re over 21, Louisiana will suspend your license for 90 days. For a second offense within five years, your license will be suspended for one year. Refusing to submit to a blood alcohol test will also result in a license suspension of 180 days for the first offense.
After 30 days of suspension for a first offense, you may be eligible for a hardship license. To obtain it, you must show that you need to drive in order to “maintain the necessities of life.” Examples include driving to and from work, medical care, school or the grocery store. Drivers under this restriction are only permitted to be on certain designated streets, and may be on the road only during hours when working, attending school or receiving medical treatment. If you’re stopped while driving under a hardship license, it’s up to the officer’s discretion to determine that you were in fact driving for an authorized purpose.
In order to obtain a hardship license, you must petition the district court in the parish where you reside. Any change in a court order or your driving needs during the hardship period requires that you re-petition for approval. When you receive a court order approving a hardship license, you must keep it with you, attached to your driver’s license, anytime you drive.
You may be required to install an interlock device on your car, requiring you to blow into a machine measuring your blood alcohol content before the car will start. If this is a requirement, you must show proof of interlock installation on your vehicle before having a hardship license approved. You must also offer proof of insurance (SR-22 “high risk driver” coverage) on the car you’ll be driving. Additional requirements may include a recommendation letter from Support Services, medical documentation, as well as your court order. If you’ll be driving an employer-owned vehicle, you must provide a statement from your employer stating that they’re aware you’ll be driving under a suspended license. An employer-owned vehicle is not required to have an interlock device.
An interlock device is not necessary for non-alcohol related suspensions, such as for failure to pay child support, failing to stop for a school bus, texting while driving, littering violations, or nonpayment of income taxes. An interlock is mandated for refusing to submit to a blood alcohol test, DWI, vehicular negligent injury, or for a violation occurring while under an alcohol-related suspension.
A hardship license may only be approved for a Class D or E license, not for a commercial license. Commercial drivers may petition for a downgrade to Class D or E if they are otherwise eligible for a hardship license, and may be approved to drive a non-commercial vehicle. If a driver holds a suspended license from another state but relocates to Louisiana, they would not be eligible for a hardship license.
Violation of hardship restrictions can result in additional penalties, depending on the reason for issuing the hardship license. In most cases, a violation will result in an extension of the license suspension for an additional year.
When your suspension has run, if you have not incurred any additional violations or penalties, you’ll receive a notice that you’ve completed your suspension period and you may have your license reinstated. To do so, you must apply for a new license, complete all court-ordered requirements (such as completion of drug and alcohol treatment or drivers education), provide proof of insurance, and pay all fees or fines.
If your license has been suspended, you have a very limited amount of time to contest the suspension, and you may be eligible for a hardship license. Get in touch with a DUI attorney as soon as possible to get help with your case. If you'd like more general information about this area of the law, see our DUI/DWI law overview.

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